Monthly Archives: August 2006

Permanent Innovation

Langdon Morris has written a new book: Permanent Innovation [the broken link was removed]. There is a blog [the broken link was removed] and web site too. The book builds upon his article, Business Model Warfare:

Furthermore, the core of the innovation value proposition need not be built around a technology per se. In the examples cited above – Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Nike, Visa, Dell, Fedex, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and Ford (in the early days) – proprietary technologies play a part in the company’s success, but there is always much more. The key to success is a focus not on technology itself, but technology applied in a business process to optimize the relationship between the company and its customers. In today’s environment nearly any technology can be, has been, and will be copied, so the important competitive advantage is knowing how to use technology in a way that adds the greatest value for customers.

Complicating Simplicity

Complicating simplicity:

Gah! Trying to read about the “Simplicity: The Art of Complexity” (er, what?) conference. But the description at the conference site is the exact opposite of simple, clear writing:

An investigation of the essence of simplicity must necessarily get involved with the psychology of human-machine interaction. Why do we display such a strong proclivity to regarding technology as an externally imposed authority, to condemning or venerating it?…If we merely equate simplicity with simplification and reduction, simply let the technology become “invisible”, we not only manifest our inability to even recognize the type and extent of the technological deployment

This post on the excellent signal vs. noise blog illustrates how one can lose their way when trying to simplify. Lean and other management improvement folks can learn a lot about eliminating non-value added steps, clean design, simplifying systems to improve performance… from this blog. The examples are mainly relating to software development from a true understanding of lean thinking (though I don’t have any evidence they are familiar with the Toyota Production System or lean tools/concepts).
Continue reading

Graban Interviews Liker

Another excellent podcast from the Lean Blog: Dr. Jeffrey Liker.

Dr. Liker discusses the subtleties of doing actually doing lean versus talking about doing lean. Dr. Liker has authored: The Toyota Way, The Toyota Way Fieldbook and The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process And Technology. His consulting firm is: Optiprise.

True lean management is not instant pudding. The more knowledgeable people are about lean practices the less they focus on quick fixes and the more they talk about deep changes. And yet some quick gains are possible. The challenge is to use early gains to build the capacity of the organization for the truly remarkable possible long term gains.

Toyota Targets 50% Reduction in Maintenance Waste

Inside the Toyota Maintenance Reduction 50 Percent by Paul V. Arnold (sadly the site broke the link, so I removed it):

First, it is Maintenance Reduction 50 Percent, not Cost Reduction 50 Percent or Employee Reduction 50 Percent.

“The goal is to reduce maintenance activities and the maintenance that you perform on a machine by 50 percent. That goal covers every machine and every activity,” says TMMK facilities control manager David Absher.

This is not about arbitrarily chopping budgets or personnel. It’s a game plan that balances today’s corporate wants and needs with long-term implications and vision.

I think this is another example of how potentially dangerous targets or goals can be used within a excellent management system effectively. Still such target can be dangerous, even in an excellent management system – so it is a tool to be used with great care (especially when the management system does not embody many principles of management improvement). Continue reading

Senge and Deming

Jeff Sutherland quoting Dr. Deming‘s response to Peter Senge request for a comment on his book, The Fifth Discipline:

“Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers—a prize for the best halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars—and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, rewarded for the top, punished for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further
loss, unknown and unknowable.”

See page 125 of New Economics, by W. Edwards Deming on the Forces of Destruction.

Related: Deming on Managementunknown and unknowable figuresDangers of Extrinsic MotivationProblems with BonusesFailed Personnel Practice: Forced Ranking

Lean Leaders

Lean leaders [the broken link was removed] by April Terreri:

Tim Corcoran, vice president of ZF Sales & Services, NA, LLC, that re-manufactures automotive transmissions and steering systems in Vernon Hills, IL. “We had a number of false starts by implementing tools like kaizen, value stream mapping and the 5Ss,” he admits. “We found it’s really about the thinking and how we approach work.” Once he and his first-line managers participated in a lean workshop at Lean Learning Center, everything began to click. “We learned to identify problems, analyze them and develop processes to solve them the same way every time.”

The tools are very helpful but the change in mindset is critical. Without the change in the way business is viewed the tools may be able to help but often can prove of limited value. Once an organization starts truly adopting principles like surfacing problems so the system can be fixed instead of hiding problems so the individual doesn’t get blamed then the tools are critical to provide results that will encourage those who are skeptical to at least try this new way of looking at things.

Smith discovered some workers were hiding scrap. “They were afraid; but I told them the only thing I care about is how to prevent it from happening again,” he says. Scrap has since dropped dramatically–about 50 percent over the last few years.


Wisconsin Manufacturing

Editorial: A way forward for state companies [the broken link was removed], Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The idea of lean manufacturing is pretty close to a religion at Ariens these days. The tenets: Be quick on the draw. Improve continuously. Be open to change. Get everyone – shop floor to board room – involved. The company’s output has nearly tripled in six years with a work force that has remained steady at about 1,000. Productivity is up, on average, about 17% a year, Ariens says.

Manufacturing and related industries are still a huge piece of Wisconsin’s economy – nearly half by some estimates.

The state should boost funding for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which preaches the gospel of lean manufacturing. Statewide, companies helped by the partnership reported $233 million in improvements during fiscal 2006. The non-profit group offers low-cost consulting to small- to mid-sized companies and receives both state and federal funding.

It’s a sign that Wisconsin manufacturers can play a major role in the state for years to come. And lean manufacturing is a key to that.

Wisconsin continues to succeed as an example of manufacturing success. Continue reading

Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation

How intellectual property influences innovation and growth in the economy depends on the application of intellectual property law. No intellectual property (IP) rights would hinder innovation. Complicated application of confusing and overreaching IP rights also hinders innovation. Now I see the USA systems as having overreaching claims of IP rights, IP rights granted for obvious ideas which then are used to extort those actually producing value and overall a system much in need of improvement.

Lawrence Lessig does the best job of presenting the value of improving our application of IP law.

Related: The Patent System Needs to be Significantly ImprovedPatent Review Innovation – Is the US Patent System Endangering American Innovation? [the broken link was removed] – Do Intellectual Property Rights Help or Hinder Innovation? [the broken link was removed] by Amy Rowell

Cyberpunk Manufacturing

Raising the Floor by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang:

The transformation of the factory from a vast machine into a creative, knowledge-intensive space is a development few could have seen. Are you ready for the next industrial revolution?

So what will the factory of the future be like? It will be aware of how users are reacting to both its latest products and still-under-NDA prototypes, feeding off streams of information coming in from prototypes, recycled units, market-watching software agents, and blogs and discussion boards. It will be able to shift production lines in a matter of days or hours, and will constantly incorporate the latest insights from the lab and the natural world. The combined effects of cascades of information and pressure for constant innovation will turn the factory floor from a space populated only by machine-tenders, into a space in which production and innovation happen simultaneously.

Sounds like lean manufacturing. The author mentioned six sigma and TQM but not lean. The article is a bit over the top, but does illustrate how cultural trends add to the benefits of a lean future.

Defined: NDA – non disclosure agreement. More management definitions.

Health Care: Saving Lives

We wrote about the IHI campaign to save lives through improved health care management previously – Saving Lives: US Health Care Improvement. IHI estimates 122,300 from December 2004 to June 2006. The PBS Newshour aired a report on the campaign

Related: posts on Health Care Improvementarticles on improving healthcare